Dairy farmers in London united in protest

Dairy farmers in London united in protest
11th Jul 2012

DAIRY farmers from all corners of Britain are heading for London today in a show of unity and strength underpinned by a burning desire for real change in the milk supply chain. reports the Farmers Guardian.
They will gather at London’ s Westminster Central Hall from around midday today for a two-hour meeting that again highlight the depths of despair felt at the recent turn of events. The venue is capable of holding more than 2,000 people and, with around 1,500 farmers already booked onto coaches this morning, the organisers, a coalition of UK farming organisations, expect to fill it.
The event reflects the reality that farmers, many facing deficits of 5-6p per litre following the recent price cuts, have simply had enough of being the poor relation in a dysfunctional supply chain.
Among those travelling down today is Philip Latham, of South Cheshire. A combination of a large bovine TB outbreak and swingeing price cuts since April will cost his business hundreds of thousands of pounds this year. 
“I have a wife, a three year-old-son and a team of staff who depend on me to pay their wages. I have also lost 74 cows to bovine TB in the last month which will reduce my income by £100,000.Since April the milk price we get paid has also started to fall and we are now looking at a price some 5p/litre lower than cost of production. If this continues the drop in milk price will reduce my income by a further £200,000. My business will not survive this,” he said.
“Like many farmers I do not believe I have a right to a living. But milk is a profitable product and, at the moment the profit is divided inequitably between supermarkets, processors and primary producers.
“It is the inherent weakness of dairy farmers in negotiating the pricethey receive which allows farmers to be forced to accept such a terrible price below the cost of production. I want the Government to readdress the balance of power between dairy farmers and milk buyers to ensure that farmers cannot be enslaved in such a manner.”
The event has been organised primarily as a demonstration of the depths of farmer anger and frustration at the price cuts – the chance to ram the message home via the media to the wider public and to politicians.
Farming Minister Jim Paice will address the event alongside NFU president Peter Kendall and representatives from NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) and Farmers for Action.
The coalition is making demands to both the milk supply chain and Government. They are insisting that all milk price cuts imposed since April must be reinstated by August 1. They are also calling on Government to give serious consideration to introducing new legislation to give farmers a fairer deal in the supply chain, if the same changes cannot be agreed voluntarily.
The emergency meeting is also likely to debate the next step in this unprecedented uprising by farmers. Mr Kendall and FFA chairman Dave Handley have both spoken of the overriding desire for further protest among members, even those who never normally be associated with such action. The NFU has made it clear it would support peaceful protest targeting retailers and processors.
Mr Kendall said: “I’ve never seen such an outpouring of anger and horror. Dairy farmers work incredibly long hours and these guys are at the end of their tether. At 24p a litre they will not be able to produce milk.”
The event has gained high profile backing. In a joint statement, two charities, supported by writer Bill Bryson and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, have demanded ‘swift action by Government and industry to tackle the chronic failures of the UK milk market’.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) said the ‘cycle of boom and bust’ has ‘driven more and more of them out of business with damaging consequences for our landscapes, local food production, animal welfare and consumers’.

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